The other day Detective Sergeant Mark Bourque and I were discussing the extent to which Senior Citizens have become targets for fraud. Although anyone can fall victim to these scams, the predators who engage in these practices place particular focus on the elderly. Sergeant Bourque was explaining a specific such ongoing case we are investigating, and suggested I write about this problem.
Up to this time, I had not shared with Sergeant Bourque that a family member of mine had recently been the victim of one of these scams. I have firsthand experience with the pain and frustration caused when someone places their trust in individuals whose intention is only to take advantage of them, often at a very high cost.
Senior Citizens make common targets for these scams because they are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their homes, and to have excellent credit, all of which makes them attractive to con artists. People who grew up in the 1940s-50s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” by just hanging up the telephone or walking away. Older citizens are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know where to report it, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or sometimes don’t even know they have been scammed. If you suspect you have been scrammed or suspect you have been a target of a scam, you can always report it to your local Police Department. If need be, we will further refer you to another law enforcement agency.
Locally, within the last month, the Tyngsborough Police have actually had a number of scams reported. Here is a sampling of the types of these activities currently occurring in your town, as well as in surrounding communities:
Individuals posing as National Grid/Keyspan employees arrive at a residence in a vehicle similar to the official company vehicles. They ask the victim to walk the perimeter of their property, pointing out fake issues with the roof, wires, or telephone poles; this takes the victim away from his home. During this time, another individual is rifling through the victim’s home, taking whatever they can get their hands on – money, jewelry, family treasures.
Telephone scams are also very common. An individual may receive a phone call from a person posing as a sweepstakes representative. The caller congratulates you on winning some contest, and then directs you to pay a fee in order to receive your winnings, pressuring the victim with threats that they will lose your winnings. You never have to pay for winning a sweepstakes or contest!
It’s also common for a Senior Citizen to receive a phone call from a grandchild stating they’ve been arrested out of the country and need to be bailed right away. They ask the grandparents to wire money immediately. Don’t believe it! We’ve had victims of this scam in Tyngsborough.
Keep these simple rules in mind:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it usually isn’t.
- If someone arrives at your home uninvited, don’t let them in. Tell them you will schedule a visit. Many times they will threaten you that they need access right away. Tell the person you are calling the Police Department and you will wait until we arrive. Whatever you do, don’t let them into your home! Stay behind locked doors. No one should be allowed into your home unless you have invited them in and you know who they are.
- Never hand over checks, money orders, or cash to strangers.
- If you are concerned or feeling unsafe while waiting for the Police to arrive, call a neighbor or a family member and tell them what is going on.
Don’t be a victim!! You have worked hard all your life; don’t let these creeps take what is yours.
Remember the Tyngsborough Police Department is only a phone call away. Just dial 9-1-1 or 978-649-7504.